First look at Jennifer Hudson in ‘Winnie’

Posted by · 5:27 pm · November 16th, 2010

Thanks to reader Nicolas Mancuso for tipping me off to this extended promo trailer for “Winnie,” Darrell James Roodt’s Winnie Mandela biopic with Jennifer Hudson in her first dramatic headlining role. I was sceptical of this project when it was announced a year ago, and I’m afraid the trailer has only exacerbated my fears. A big-name screen treatment was always likely to smooth over some of the uglier wrinkles in Ms. Mandela’s personal and political life, but this looks to be a shameless whitewash job: seeing this troubled, charismatic criminal (and arguable murderess) given the fawning violin treatment, complete with laudatory intertitles like “Her Courage” and “Her Strength,” leaves a very sour taste indeed. (More, and the embedded trailer, after the cut.)

The film itself looks like rote oatmeal fare, complete with clunky exposition and cement-thick accents, though Hudson appears to capture the physicality of the young Winnie effectively enough. (She’ll nonetheless have to clear the high bar set by Sophie Okonedo in last year’s BBC TV film “Mrs. Mandela,” as will the movie.) Terrence Howard, meanwhile, has about as much onscreen kinship with Nelson Mandela as, well, Morgan Freeman. We’ll know more when the film unspool at Sundance in January, followed by a Berlinale appearance the next month, but count my expectations safely lowered.




→ 48 Comments Tags: , , , | Filed in: Daily

48 responses so far

  • 1 11-16-2010 at 5:29 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    That trailer is flabbergastingly awful. Among the worst I’ve ever seen.

  • 2 11-16-2010 at 5:49 pm

    David said...

    “Winnie” looks excellent. Jennifer Hudson needs to make room on her mantel for a second Oscar.

  • 3 11-16-2010 at 5:57 pm

    Michael said...

    pretty creaky imho. actually I much preferred the awful looking “Faster” trailer that appeared before the video loaded. we shall see how bad (or good?) it is after it is released but I have a feeling this film might be lost after it bows at Sundance and forgotten afterward.

  • 4 11-16-2010 at 6:06 pm

    Zack said...

    I understand the desire for a bankable actor as lead, but Hollywood’s inability to cast African actors as Africans is really starting to bug me. It’s like casting Joe Pesci as Bartolomeo Vanzetti.

  • 5 11-16-2010 at 6:16 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Ouch, that was painful. I couldn’t even finish it. And Jennifer Hudson, oy vey is she a limp screen presence when she’s not singing.

  • 6 11-16-2010 at 6:17 pm

    Mike said...

    Yay for Jennifer. The movie doesn’t look that great, but her performance seems to be quiet, understated, and potentially good. She ages too, and that is always a plus when it comes to Oscars.

  • 7 11-16-2010 at 6:21 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Mike- What you see as “quiet” and “understated”, I see as “cut the trailer around her at all cost”

  • 8 11-16-2010 at 6:30 pm

    The Z said...

    Is skeptical spelled sceptical in the UK? If not, you’ve got a spelling mistake.

    Love the “Road to Perdition” score in there :) But this looks terrible otherwise. Just not interesting would be my main critique.

  • 9 11-16-2010 at 6:41 pm

    Nick Davis said...

    Your attempt several months ago at performing triage via suggested recasting — i.e., Mo’Nique as Winnie, in all her charisma AND her aggravating edges — is all the more grievable after this as a missed opportunity. (And that’s only if one must avoid casting an African actress, as apparently exists somewhere as a rule written in blood.)

    I hope you’re at least consoled that Winnie isn’t played by Chloe Moretz?

  • 10 11-16-2010 at 6:45 pm

    Lazarus said...

    I would kill to see a mash-up of this and the new Winnie the Pooh trailer.

    Someone make it happen.

  • 11 11-16-2010 at 6:58 pm

    caro said...

    euh! i don’t know! but her older make-up is sh***y

  • 12 11-16-2010 at 7:09 pm

    Patryk said...

    Razzie nod ?

  • 13 11-16-2010 at 7:17 pm

    kel said...

    if she can win for DREAMGIRLS, she can at least be nominated for this

  • 14 11-16-2010 at 7:25 pm

    Dean said...

    Is there ANYONE who would actually want to see this?

  • 15 11-16-2010 at 7:38 pm

    Lucas said...

    This looks like a 90s made-for-TV movie… though Jennifer doesn’t look thatttt awful. Plus, lovin’ the Blood Diamond music…

  • 16 11-16-2010 at 7:58 pm

    Andrew F said...

    I don’t know about you guys, but I thought that the true horror here is Terrence Howard. I cringed every time he opened his mouth.

  • 17 11-16-2010 at 8:04 pm

    Nicolas Mancuso said...

    I’m almost sorry for unleashing this trailer upon you all. I’m also delighting in my first-ever In Contention shout-out. Thanks, Guy!

    As horrible as this looks, I’m excited to see it, if only for Jennifer Hudson, who I’ve adored since she first stepped on the “American Idol” stage six years ago. I’ve become exhausted by endlessly defending her Oscar win, and I still believe it was wholly deserved (though Blanchett, Barraza, or Kikuchi would have made an equally deserving winner — strong year for “supporting” actresses, 2006 was). I acknowledge that Hudson was awkward in her early scenes in “Dreamgirls”, but she blossomed into the role, and her performance during the “It’s All Over”/”And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” sequence (both singing and acting) still absolutely floors me.

    This is all to say that I am eager to see what she does next, even if it appears to be utter shit. I’m interested to see how much she can stretch dramatically and, maybe, prove she’s not a one hit wonder.

  • 18 11-16-2010 at 8:10 pm

    R.J. said...

    I agree with Andrew F., Howard looks worse than Hudson in this trailer. That accent is just…wow.

  • 19 11-16-2010 at 8:18 pm

    kid said...

    I can’t believe I’m saying this but I completely agree with Chad on this one. I actually cant believe it’s a movie it looks like a made for tv movie… except worse.

  • 20 11-16-2010 at 8:26 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    This is rare but I agree with Chad. This trailer, if it is a trailer, is terrible. Terrence Howard makes no sense as Nelson Mandela.

  • 21 11-16-2010 at 9:10 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    What’s so bad about agreeing with me guys? After all, I’m always right.

  • 22 11-16-2010 at 10:06 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    I didn’t say it was bad to agree with you just that I tend not to.

    I could not even watch this “trailer” to the end though. This will be even worse than Invictus!

  • 23 11-16-2010 at 10:29 pm

    Xavi Rodriguez said...

    The trailer looks awful, but I agree with a few of comments, Jennifer Hudson actually looks fine -Not great but also not worse- maybe she’ll surprised to the critics. Even when I don’t think she deserved that Oscar, I like her in “The Secret Life of Bees”.

    Terrence Howard… YIKES with that accent and those faces. If Morgan Freeman sounded horrible, Howard’s accent is by a mile worse.

    Again, this director made films like Cry, Beloved Country and Yesterday, so maybe this is only a bad trailer

  • 24 11-16-2010 at 11:08 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    The Z: Yes, it’s spelled “sceptical” in the UK. I’m supposed to use US spelling on the site, but it’s hard to break the habit.

  • 25 11-16-2010 at 11:08 pm

    Packie said...

    Yuck . What horrible, excruciating trailer. Like Chad this is quite possibly the worst I’ve ever seen.

  • 26 11-16-2010 at 11:08 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    And Xavi, “Cry, the Beloved Country” is not good.

  • 27 11-16-2010 at 11:21 pm

    Glenn said...

    I had to skip through the last minute and a half. Yikes. Terrence Howard? There is no acclaimed actor I like less than Terrence Howard and he looks awful here.

  • 28 11-16-2010 at 11:28 pm

    Alex (in Movieland) said...

    hahahaha.

    this looks like a home made parody trailer :))

    awful. let’s move on.

  • 29 11-16-2010 at 11:58 pm

    Tye-Grr said...

    Poor Hudson. For her sake, I just hope this was a horrible example of the actual film. I’ve enjoyed Howard’s work in ‘Hustle & Flow’ and ‘Crash’, but he looks awful here.

  • 30 11-17-2010 at 4:26 am

    Kokolo said...

    That looks painful, and Terrence Howard seems awful.

  • 31 11-17-2010 at 4:50 am

    Joel said...

    Will Jennifer Hudson be allowed to sing in this one, too? If so, maybe her poor acting skills and clunky onscreen presence can be overshadowed enough to score her yet another Oscar. What a terrifying thought!!

  • 32 11-17-2010 at 6:03 am

    Nicolas Mancuso said...

    Really, Guy? You’re supposed to use U.S. spelling on this site? I thought the whole idea was to have a voice and presence from the other side of the ocean… I’m not judging, just curious. I am from Canada after all (America’s, er, favourite neighbour). ;)

  • 33 11-17-2010 at 6:10 am

    JJ1 said...

    Only impressions I got are: the costumes look lovely, Hudson may be able to impress in broad stroke, and the make-up is awful.

    But I’ve been a J-Hud fan since Idol, so I’m in; no matter how bad it could be.

  • 34 11-17-2010 at 6:10 am

    JJ1 said...

    broad STROKES

  • 35 11-17-2010 at 6:20 am

    McAllister said...

    Insult to injury is that the trailer is 3.5 minutes long…

  • 36 11-17-2010 at 7:30 am

    Alex (in Movieland) said...

    It sure makes INVICTUS look great! :))))

  • 37 11-17-2010 at 9:01 am

    The Great Dane said...

    Talk about changing your body for a role. Hudson gained a lot of extra weight for Dreamgirls and kept the weight on through her Oscar win – but damn, she looks skinny in this! Kudos to her for that, at least…

  • 38 11-17-2010 at 9:03 am

    The Great Dane said...

    PS: This is SO going the Grey Gardens route via HBO. Can’t see this making a smash at cinemas…

  • 39 11-17-2010 at 9:05 am

    The Great Dane said...

    And forget the “badness” of Hudson and Howard…
    The man playing Hudson’s father is just painly bad in the trailer. His opening speech, which they seem to cut back to throughout the trailer, is embarrasingly painful.

  • 40 11-17-2010 at 9:18 am

    André said...

    I honestly think this would fit perfectly in place along with those “trailers” that played before “Tropic Thunder”.

  • 41 11-17-2010 at 9:37 am

    Julian Stark said...

    Arguably among worst trailers I’ve ever seen. Let’s just hope that Jennifer Hudson gives an admirable performance. From the looks of it, it’s already too late to wish such fortune for Terrence Howard!

  • 42 11-17-2010 at 9:38 am

    Julian Stark said...

    Arguably among *the worst trailers

  • 43 11-17-2010 at 12:42 pm

    deeks said...

    God that trailer looks awful. Only got about 2 minutes through it before turning it off. I checked back again when I read the comments about how bad the aging make up is and to be honest I didn’t think it looked that bad.

    Hudson is ok but no more but Howard definitely takes the “worst in show” bragging rights. And even from a 4 minute trailer it’s plain to see that the supporting cast is made up of cliche after cliche.

    Absolutely zero interest in seeing this.

  • 44 11-17-2010 at 2:32 pm

    Cameron said...

    A maple leaf documentary couldn’t be this sappy.

    Count me out

  • 45 11-17-2010 at 8:51 pm

    Aaron said...

    Why in god’s name did they have a FOUR minute trailer? I’ve never seen a trailer that long before. Wtf?!

    As far as a tv movie…there’s no way in hell this could be picked up by HBO, they actually produce quality shows…this should go direct to Lifetime Television or Oxygen (is that network even exist anymore? If so, this would be a perfect contribution).

    I actually thought Jennifer Hudson was the least painful thing in this trailer (which isn’t saying much). I’ve always disliked Terrence Howard and this only validates my opinion more.

    Alas, I will try to retain some form of optimism and keep my eyes open for the Sundance reviews. Maybe by some divine miracle the film isn’t as big a mess as it seems…

  • 46 11-17-2010 at 9:05 pm

    Glenn said...

    Movies tend to have much longer film market trailers.

  • 47 1-19-2011 at 4:43 am

    Mary said...

    Jennifer just might surprise s all. I am going to wait until I see the movie to comment.